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Our final featured student, Alexandra Noi, is moving to Santa Barbara from Moscow with her husband, Evgeny (featured yesterday). Read on to learn more about ​her research on comparative totalitarianism and some of her plans for when she arrives at UCSB!

By Daina Tagavi, Professional Development Peer
Wednesday, September 26th, 2018 - 8:30am

This the final installment of our 2018 Incoming Grad Series featuring backstories and fun facts on 8 students who are part of our most diverse incoming class in recent memory.

Alexandra Noi ​​is moving to Santa Barbara from Moscow with her husband, Evgeny (featured yesterday). Alexandra studied in Russian and Chinese universities, and has always dreamed of being a student in an American institution. Her unique research interests stem from her personal experiences living in these two countries.

Read on to learn more about ​her research on comparative totalitarianism and some of her plans for when she arrives in Santa Barbara!


Alexandra was born, raised, and educated in the beautiful city of Saint-Petersburg, which is often called the "cultural capital" of Russia. The city was founded by the Russian Tsar Peter the Great as a "Window to the West" in 1703. However, when she was a toddler, the city, being part of the USSR, was cut from the rest of the world by the Iron Curtain. In 1991, the curtain dropped down, marking the beginning of the "freewheeling 1990s" in the newly established Russian Federation. While most of her compatriots were trying to survive those hard times, she was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to travel abroad. Her family traveled to Paris, Prague, Helsinki, Ljubljana, Rome, and even as far as Chicago. It was a unique experience for ex-Soviet people to be able to see the outer world in those days, as the majority began traveling abroad only in the 2000s. Although she felt fascinated with the Western/European way of life, for her career, ​Alexandra chose to "turn to the East" and became a Sinologist.


For ​her Ph.D., Alexandra was searching for a ​department with strong research in both Russian and Chinese History. The doctoral program in history at UCSB is a good fit for her research agenda because of the top-rated research of faculty with strong comparative, transnational, and cultural dimensions. The Department's emphasis on public memory and the history of radical movements of the left and right (the Russian Revolution, Fascism/Nazism, genocide and the Holocaust) correlates with her proposed research of authoritarianism and historical instances of political oppression. And, of course, being raised in ​a swampy city (St. Petersburg was literally built on the swamps!) with 300 gloomy days per year, she could not fight the temptation of living in sunny California. Reading a book in the library facing the ocean - what more can ​one dream of?


Alexandra is interested in comparative totalitarian past in Russia and China, which is a deeply personal commitment because she belongs to the nation that concurrently suffered from and imposed such violence. She picked up a keen interest in the history of totalitarian regimes when she read A. Solzhenitsyn's book "The Gulag Archipelago" in secondary school. She continued reading up on the issue from multiple sources, including monographs and journal articles, while also volunteering at the Gulag Museum in Moscow, helping to decipher archives and the personal diaries of the exiled. ​Alexandra feels even more inclined to pursue this line of inquiry now that authoritarianism is on an upward trend.


Alexandra loves to travel. She has already planned her first road trip along the historic Route 66. ​She also likes to crochet and knit and is planning to register for weaving classes at UCSB. Alexandra shared some fun facts about herself: when she was little, she didn't like fruit and would hold food in her cheek for hours, like a hamster. She also had a steel needle in her foot for 18 years and didn't know about it!

Welcome, Alexandra!

Thanks for tuning into the 2018 Incoming Grad Series. Be sure to subscribe to the GradPost for more updates on ​grad student events and profiles.